New Jersey Devils star forward Taylor Hall was arguably the favorite to win the Hart Trophy. Just one week later, he could have fallen out of the top three.
Just one week ago, it seemed like the impossible was about to become reality. Coming off a 26-game point streak, a wide open MVP race looked like it might end with a New Jersey Devils’ player winning the award for the first time ever. In fact, in the team’s history, only Martin Brodeur has ever been named in the top three. Even in Zach Parise’s ridiculous 2008-09 season, where he scored 45 goals with 49 assists, he finished fifth. He didn’t even receive one Hart Trophy vote.
This season is much different. The Hart Trophy race is wide open. It was Hall’s for the taking when he was single-handedly keeping the Devils in the playoff race. Every single point he scored meant something. He wasn’t scoring garbage time points like some of the other star players. Hall scored overtime goals, made perfect passes on game-winning assists and had some great defensive plays when the team needed it.
Just look at some of the headlines coming from nationally syndicated publications.
This shows that Taylor Hall is a legit candidate for the Hart Trophy.
However, over the past week things have changed. None of it is Hall’s fault. He’s still been great over the past week, and the Devils scored wins against the Vegas Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings in that time. The issue is other players are now adding themselves to the headlines.
Nathan MacKinnon is probably Hall’s biggest deterrent for the Hart Trophy. He’s doing the same thing Hall is doing, carrying his team to playoff contention, but he has more counting points. MacKinnon has 38 goals to Hall’s 31. He has 51 assists to Hall’s 46. MacKinnon recorded 11 game-winning goals to Hall’s five.
There is a possibility that MacKinnon’s Colorado Avalanche will miss the playoffs, so that could take him out of contention.
There’s also Anze Kopitar, who himself is carrying the Los Angeles Kings. The player who seemed to lose his star status internationally has 81 points for a Kings team fighting as hard to keep its playoff spot as the Devils.
More from Pucks and Pitchforks
This doesn’t even include the players the “mainstream media” would love to win the award. Nikita Kucherov leads the league with 93 points, and could break 100 before the season ends. Evgeni Malkin continues to crush it as the Pittsburgh Penguins forget their early season struggles. Connor McDavid still gets consideration because he’s the best player in the game, despite it being strange a team near the bottom can have the MVP.
Hall deserves as much Hart Trophy consideration as anybody. However, now that the 26-game point streak ended it’s hard to keep him in the conversation. It’s not hard for us, because we understand where the Devils would be without him. It’s just hard to keep writers and radio hosts to talk Hall for Hart without a storyline behind it.
If the Devils keep going win-for-win with the Blue Jackets and Panthers to make the playoffs, it will be hard to deny Hall’s chances. This team would be fighting for the lottery without Hall. The Devils would be in full tank mode. Now, they fight for their playoff lives every single night. That’s thanks to number 9. He deserves Hart Trophy praise like he got a week ago, but realistically the way NHL writers vote it will be hard to keep him in the conversation.
Want your voice heard? Join the Pucks and Pitchforks team!